Friday, December 30, 2011

New Jersey Day Trips

Frequent readers of the PillsPress know we enjoy taking day trips, and writing about our experiences. This book: "New Jersey Day Trips," by Patrick Sarver will help me discover more hidden treasures in my home state.

I first saw this book at Aunt Barbara's house. She used it to find places for Ashley and I to visit with her last August. As I leafed through the book I found places we have visited, places that have been recommended to us, and new places to find and explore.

I like that the book also includes destinations just over the borders of New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

In 2012 I look forward to using this book to find new destinations.

Christmas Church Services

Looking back over the years, my favorite church services have taken place at Christmastime. Growing up we always participated in the Christmas Pageant at the Reformed Church of Oradell, NJ. My two sisters and I were most often angels. Every time I hear the song "Oh Holy Night!" I still have an urge to "fall on my knees" and raise my arms on cue.

The year Ashley was born, we were cast as Mary, Joseph and (9-month-old) baby Jesus. Two years later when Hayden was born, Ashley and I were again in the cast as a sheep with her shepherd.  Then my parents moved to Robbinsville, NJ and found a church closer to home.

Living down here we have created our own traditions of attending Christmastime services. My favorite service is always "The Carol of Many Nations" at Princeton Theological Seminary.

The familiar Advent and Christmas scriptures are read by PTS students, staff and faculty in their native tongues. Each of the three services has a different group of people reading the scriptures. This year there was a Deaf performing artist (Noah Buchholz) who encouraged the crowd to help him present his scripture verse. Hymns are sung from all over the globe and in many different languages.The service concludes with the reading of Matthew 5:14 ("You are the light of the World.") said in each of the languages, and the passing of the light as the student choir sings "Peace, Peace." It humbles me to be reminded that God and Jesus are in every corner of the globe.

On Christmas Eve we normally attend two, if not three, services. As in the past few years, we attend the 7 PM service at Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church. This year Ashley sang with the Children's Choir. My favorite part of the service is when the children go up and decorate the Nativity Scene with any tiny plastic animal they have -- even rhinos. As our church has two services, and we go to the earlier of the two, we often catch up with friends from the other service at this one.

Ideally after a nap, we attend the 11 PM service at The First Presbyterian Church of Hamilton Square. Due to the late time, the candlelight service is not a kid-friendly. That's fine by us, though, as Ashley tends to sleep while Pastor Doug preaches.

We drive home past Woodlane Avenue, which always sets up a runway for Santa.

Like magic, Ashley always wakes up when we come home. Thanks to NORAD, she knows Santa arrives in Lawrenceville about the time we are at church. Sure enough, when she opens the front door -- the gifts are waiting to be opened and the stocking is full. Yes, we do stay awake and open presents. This also means, we have the chance to sleep in late on Christmas morning.

A final picture of a church service from a few years ago. The Pennington Presbyterian Church was undergoing renovations, so they held their early evening service in a local barn. The message of the babe being born in a stable seemed to come to life as we were in a barn.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Boxing Day in Morristown, NJ

In our family, Boxing Day is also known as my Dad's birthday. With Christmas falling on a Sunday, Don had the 26th off from work. We decided to meet up with my parents in Morristown, NJ to celebrate Dad's 68th birthday, and see some history.

Our first stop was the Ford Mansion. General Washington and his entourage stayed here in the winter of 1779-1780. The Ford Family, widow and her 4 children, shared their home with Washington, Martha Washington, 5 aides-de-camp and 18 servants. Eric, our guide, told us sometimes they housed 30-50 people, and had entertained up to 100 people.

View out the keyhole. Ashley had the original idea, Don may have taken this picture. Hard to tell as the camera keeps being passed between the three of us.

Looks like the aides-de-camp just walked away for a few minutes.

Further up the road is the Wick House at Jockey Hollow. I have fond memories of visiting Aunt Debra here when she was a docent in the mid-1970s. To me, the place has not changed a bit. My parents, though, could spot the changes.

For as well-lit as the Ford Mansion was, the Wick House was just as dark.

Though a little brisk, it was a beautiful day for a mile hike up to the cabins where the soldiers spent the winter of 1779-1780. These huts were reconstructed in the 1960s. What surprised us was how the configuration of the 12 bunks varied in each hut.

Damage from the Halloween 2011 snowstorm was still evident. Lots of downed trees and piles of branches. They seem to be falling faster than the park services can keep on top of them.

Lunch was at the Minuteman Restaurant, a pie shop/diner I remember eating in when my parents took us to Morristown. The place has not changed much since the mid-1970s -- I believe Mom said she remembered different artwork on the walls. Not surprisingly, I could not find a website for the restaurant. It is the kind of place that has not been touched by 21st century technology. A great place to dine while time traveling.

Grounds for Sculpture

I was recently listening to BEN FM when I heard an ad for the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. The ad featured "Winter Wonderland" on Friday and Saturday evenings in December. The ad also said the Grounds for Sculpture is located "just outside Princeton." Locals know this just another stretch of the definition of Princeton's boundaries. Google Maps puts this at a 23-minute drive, barring traffic, of course.

Driving from the Hamilton Train Station to the Grounds for Sculpture you see dozens of enormous sculptures -- from a giant tooth to a giant Impressionist painting come to life. Someday I will park my car and take pictures of these sculptures. These are a mere sampling of the artwork that is behind the gates.

We still remember the days when the Grounds for Sculpture were free, hence it is hard for us to shell out the admission fees. We have since visited on rare days when the place has an open house, and hence is crowded. The Winter Wonderland event encouraged us to return and pay to visit.

The place was founded by sculpture, and heir to the J&J fortune, J. Seward Johnson as a place to display his art, and to make art accessible to more people. Groundbreaking began in 1989 on the former site of the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. It opened to the public in 1992.

Don can be seen in the background taking a picture.

I think we are united in our feeling that our favorite sculptures are those by J. Seward Johnson that bring impressionist paintings to life.

I like this, one, too. Reminds me of a giant erector set.

I love that visitors are encouraged to engage with the art and pose with it.

The Grounds for Sculpture are beautiful in every season. Personally. I'm hoping to return after a snow storm to take pictures. Don took most of our pictures when we went last week.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Lawrenceville Patch!

Yesterday the Lawrenceville Patch ( turned one.

I started with them just over a year ago first by taking pictures of schools and parks around town. In February I became a Freelance Reporter.

Today my editor listed links to some of the top stories. While his list includes some of my stories, I thought I would do the same and highlight a few of my favorite stories.

10) Whiz Kids! For a few months I was a columnist for the Lawrenceville Patch. Promise Klink was my first Whiz Kid. Sadly, the column was discontinued over the summer.

9) St. Baldrick's Fundraiser. My original plan was to take a few pictures and leave. I became inspired by their stories and their courage -- especially moving were talking to the 3 girls and 2 women who had their heads shaved. This was my first non-school story.

8) Emile B. Klein, cyclist/artist traveling around the country. Though the article was quite long, there was a lot more I could say about him. I was the only Lawrenceville reporter to interview him. After my story, he was asked to speak to a group at a local synagogue. The Whiz Kid weekly column turned into a monthly Greatest Person article. He was the first Greatest Person.

7) Occupy WallStreet on the move. While walking for 10 miles as the group traveled through Princeton and Lawrenceville, I felt as if I was participating in history. How cool is that? I gained an insider's view into the Occupy Movement and was paid to do it! Taking pictures in the dark was new for me. Looking at these pictures, I realized I have a lot to learn about photography -- and I want to learn it. I was the only only who covered this story in Lawrenceville.

6) Farmer's Market Closes Early. While most of the article was written by my editor, Michael Ratcliffe, I gained new insights into being a reporter as I covered this story. I was sent out on a quick story to find out about why the Farmer's Market was closing 6 weeks early. I left with a story full of scandal -- trouble is, I don't like to cover scandal. My editor kindly called my sources and ran the story. Only one of the three other papers covered the scandalous side of the story, the other two wrote in more general terms about the closing.

5) A tie for the story about Kayla's blanket drive and Nate's coat drive. After seeing my articles, they each received an award from the Mercer County Freeholders (I did not write the story about their award).

4) I covered a lot of school news this year. While I personally love covering plays and concerts, this article stands out because of where it might lead. The high school's science department was transformed into Willy Wonka Nights so the big students could teach the younger students about Food Science. A museum in Illinois saw my article and are talking to those in charge to see if the program could also happen in Illinois.

3) Skyping became a recurring topic. I covered three Skyping stories. Sadly I was not sent to Taiwan to cover the story when one of our elementary schools Skyped with an elementary school on the other side of the globe. The Lawrence Senior Center was the recipient of the local Skyping stories. Third-graders skyping, same students meeting the seniors, and a virtual concert.

2) We all know bullying is wrong, but I got to meet Nadin Khoury, a teen who was bullied and makes it his mission to speak to his peers to get the message across. His first talk to his peers took place at Lawrence Middle School. This was my first event where I had to share space with the local news station. This story was national news.

1) I interviewed four moms who started their own businesses and put together an article about the changing American Dream. Hoping these moms get some business out of my article.

This list is in no particular order. Just as they popped in my head. I do find that I love going places in town and seeing people smile when they see me. It is even better when they come up to me and want to give me a story for Patch, or help me make my story even better.

As I sit here and type this I think of many other stories I loved covering, too. I wrote three articles about our library celebrating its 50th anniversary. A local elementary school also turned 50 this year (1961 was a boom year for Lawrenceville). We had an earthquake. Over the past year I wrote 65 stories -- and enjoyed covering each one.

Do you have a favorite that I did not list?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Run, Run, Run

This year I earned my first running medal. On May 1st I ran Philadelphia’s 10-mile Broad Street Run. While I went from one end of Broad St to the other, Don, Ashley and friends, Kevin Gruenfeld and Trish Bennett, handed Gatorade to thousands of runners at mile 7.8.

My big race this year was Disneyland’s Half Marathon on September 4th – also known as “The Happiest Race on Earth.” This was the focus behind my training. It was wonderful! Disney really knows how to organize a race.

I trained bi-coastally with my honorary aunt, Joanie Morris. We emailed each other encouragement. On the big day we stayed together until the finish line. The experience was so amazing I kept forgetting we were going 13.1 miles.

I took 200 pictures during the race. There are pictures of us with Disney characters, plus action shots of us running through the castle, Disney’s back stage area, Anaheim Angels stadium and the streets of Anaheim. In the end, we earned our medals and had smiles on our faces.

After the race we walked a mile back to our hotel, where we checked out and celebrated at Mimi’s Café. Don, Ashley and I spent the rest of the day at Disneyland before catching our red-eye flight home.

November 5th I ran a women’s-only race in Long Branch, NJ called Beauty and the Beach. In just under an hour I ran 5 miles. It was a lot of fun! The "medal" awarded for the event was a beautiful shoe necklace.

PillsPress as a Blog

Last December the Pillsbury Press went online as a blog: At the time we planned to have both an electronic version and traditional Christmas card edition. Twelve months later we are second-guessing that logic. While we are not saying this is the 19th and final edition of the Pillsbury Press, it might be.

Please visit our blog for more stories and pictures about us. Blog stories include tours of historic sites we visited this year, as well as my impressions of each of them. There are stories about the plays we were in. We also wrote about two trips to Virginia. During one of them we visited with Judy and Mike Wodynski. Judy is the person responsible for Don and me meeting on June 12, 1989. There is also more information about our giant road trip and our trip to the Statue of Liberty. Mostly it is a collection of activities too small to fit here.

If you are not online, we can print the articles for you.


Anaheim, CA. Visiting Disneyland is like a reunion for us. We make plans to catch-up with old friends and make new ones, too.

This year we timed our trip to overlap with Masumi Tsukamato’s visit. The best we could arrange was starting our trip as hers ended. Hurricane Irene nearly cancelled those plans, but thanks to a wonderful JetBlue agent, we met Masumi as planned. (You can read about that in our blog.) Masumi was sad because her flight home to Tokyo was the next morning, but happy to see us.

For Ashley, no trip to Disney is complete without seeing Brianna Garcia. Brianna is an extremely talented artist who is also very encouraging of Ashley’s artwork. Brianna and Ashley are kindred souls. It is always fun to see them play together in Disneyland.

Hurricane Irene also affected the travel plans of friends Patti and Neil Burd. They were stuck on the West Coast after their cruise. As luck would have it, they went to Disneyland during our vacation. Miss Patti, as Ashley calls her, is a docent at the Lenape Village at the Churchville Nature Center, where Ashley spends many nice Sunday afternoons. When Ashley saw Miss Patti at Disney her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.

Also on this trip we reconnected with Kimberly Fero, a cast member who always has a bright smile and warm heart no matter the situation. Kimberly spent her day off with us playing in the Magic Kingdom.

A highlight of any trip is sitting around the piano at Coke Corner, listening to Robert Glenn serenade the crowd, and catching up with friends. No matter how long it has been since our last Disneyland vacation, and in this case it had been a full year, the group welcomes us back and fills us in on what we missed.        Jacquie

I Bike NYC

by Don

This year I developed a fondness for bicycling in Manhattan, which is quite surprising given my aversion to riding with traffic. What helps me is over the past three years, New York has added 200 miles of bike lanes, some of which are protected bike paths completely segregated from cars.

On four separate days I loaded my bike into the car and drove to New York to explore this new treasure.

On April 30 I went to the Blessing of the Bikes at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. I stood with my bike in the sanctuary along with hundreds of other cyclists and their bicycles. The priest read scripture, led us in prayer, and sprinkled us with holy water. After the service I joined the Five Borough Bicycle Club for a ride to Brooklyn and to the New Amsterdam Bike Show. Most of this ride was on the Greenway, which hugs the Manhattan coastline. 

Six weeks later I returned for the World Naked Bike Ride. Even though it was June, it was a frigid day and as a result the ride was cancelled. Instead, I cycled to the Plaza Hotel in search of a temporary display of Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals: Zodiac Heads” sculpture. While cycling along 1st Ave I realized the scope of the bike infrastructure. To my surprise, there were signs directing cyclists to various destinations.

A week later I returned at 8 PM for “Bike All Night.” This turned out to be too disorganized for me. I left the group and explored the Greenway, Broadway, the financial district and Central Park instead.

By far, my longest ride this year was the NYC Century on September 18. This ride, covering 100 miles in a single day, extended into Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. The highlight was finally making it to the site of the 1964 World’s Fair and posing next to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tour de Fat

Chicago, IL. July took us on an adventure through 7 states in 9 days and numerous stops for local treats.

The road trip stemmed from Don’s desire to experience the Tour de Fat – a bicycle-centric festival sponsored by the New Belgium Brewing Company.

The festival was held in Palmer Square, a park on the outskirts of Chicago. Highlights included a performance by synchronized bicycle dancers (think synchronized swimming, but using bicycles instead of water), a bicycle parade, and The Bike Pit (artistically altered bicycles anyone could ride – Ashley’s favorite had a series of shoes in lieu of tires). There were also bicycle-themed skits and activities.

While in Chicago we walked along Lake Michigan, around downtown and on the Magnificent Mile, visiting the American Girl Store and the Disney Store. 

The trip turned into a personal “Tour de Fat.” It coincided with a major heat wave and each stop included sampling local ice cream and other sweets.

Our first stop was Columbus, OH. We stayed with Aunt Debra and Uncle Tom Smith. After touring Slate Run (a historic site), we stopped at Fantasy Cupcakes in Canal Winchester, OH with them and Cousin Laura. Later we visited Tom’s mom, Marge Smith, and his sister, Joanie Smith Morris. Joanie, my running partner, happened to be in Bexley at the same time, so we went on our only training run together. It was great running with her, and great to have a chance to burn off some calories.

While in Columbus, we visited with our friend Heidi Harendza, a New Jersey transplant living in the German Village section of the city. She took us to Jeni’s, a new ice cream parlor that is rapidly spreading beyond its Columbus origins. We also visited Cousin David Smith at his new job at Tim Horton’s, where we had a fruit smoothie.

Continuing west, our next stop was Beaver Creek, OH for lunch with Joe
Langer, a friend of Don’s from high school. We met at Mimi’s Café for lunch and shared a dessert trio.

The next leg of the trip (the drive to Chicago) was not so sweet. We sat for 2¼ hours in a traffic jam, or should I say we stood in a traffic jam since we were able to get out of our car and walk around meeting people. If only Indiana had a site I could have sent them some great pictures.

After the Tour de Fat festival in Chicago, we continued to Washington, IL to visit our friend Rebecca Weltmann. We have known her since she was a teen. Now she is the solo pastor of Washington Presbyterian Church. The timing allowed us to hear her preach and go out to lunch with her. Lunch was followed by Key Lime Pie over ice cream.

A benefit of going to the Tour de Fat festival in Chicago was visiting my 85-year-old great aunt, Lee Thomas. Three years ago she moved from New Jersey to an assisted living residence in Illinois. It was great seeing her looking so well.

Barbara, Scott, Blaire and Haleigh Theurerkoff (Aunt Lee’s daughter and her family) joined us for Gino’s Chicago deep dish pizza, followed by ice cream at Oberweis Dairy.

The trip home we took a different route. We spent two days in East Lansing, MI with Jennie, Chris, Emma, Bella and Luke Waters. Emma and Ashley are best friends from kindergarten, but had not seen each other in three years. They picked up as if only three days had passed. It was hard to separate them at the end of our stay. The Waters family took us to the Michigan State University Dairy Store. Ice cream is produced there as part of their Food Science program.

While Ashley stayed with Emma and her family, Don and I drove to Grand Rapids to visit Steve Paulsen. Steve, Don and I worked together many years ago. Steve navigated us to Holland, MI where we toured Steve’s alma mater, Hope College, and watched the sun set over Lake Michigan. Though we did not have dessert with Mr. Paulsen, Don did have a tasty beer called Dragon’s Milk.

We continued east with a stop in Bethel Park, PA to visit Bruce and Debbie Thomas, Aunt Lee’s son and daughter-in-law. Debbie cooked a wonderful meal, including homemade peanut butter ice cream for dessert. Yum!

After the last five hours on the road, we celebrated coming home with Chinese food from Tiger Noodle. Based on the rest of this trip, we should have had Purple Cow Ice Cream instead.      

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

O Christmas Tree

It seemed during the Christmas 2010 season our tree was on its side more than it was upright. It felt cursed.

This year we decided to take no chances. We bought a new tree stand. We went to a different place to buy our tree. I left it standing for a week before I put the lights on it. I left it alone a few more days before attempting to put ornaments on it. After placing a few dozen ornaments on the tree, when I wasn't even touching it, I noticed it falling away from me.

As Yogi Berra would say "it was deja vu all over again."

I snapped a picture and called Don.

Let's back track a bit.

For nearly 20 years we bought a tree from a local tree farm. Even after he stopped his tree farm business, he still sold to his regulars for a few more years. We never had any troubles with his trees. He laughed as Don carried one of his trees home on the back of his bike saying "now I've seen everything."

Last year he announced he was finished for good. We had to respect that. Still, though, we like the experience of cutting our own tree and Don likes hauling it home on the back of his bike.

We found a tree farm around the corner from our house on Keefe Road. Trouble was, they only sell trees a day or two a year -- about two weeks after we normally buy our tree. We waited, and purchased from them, happy to support a local business.

Don took the tree home on the back of his bike. Ashley and I walked home. Yes, it was that close.

Then the trouble started.

I decorated the tree as I've done for many years. As I finished, I went to move the tree. I should have moved it from the base, but I didn't.

I then heard CRACK. Tiiiimmmmbbbeeeerr.... down went the tree.

We propped it up. The stand was broken. It is the middle of December. We shoved scooped up the ornaments that had fallen. Don patched the ornaments together. He glued the stand together, too.

That only lasted about 5 minutes before Tiiimmmmbbbbeeeerrr!

Don found a stand at Wal-Mart, but it was the old-style stand where you have to adjust each of the sides and pray it stands up. It didn't.

We then shopped where most 21st century people shop at some time or other -- eBay.

As luck would have it, eBay had our model stand (the PivotPoint) available from a seller in Lawrenceville, NJ. What are the chances? There was already a bid on it, so we patiently waited and won the bid. The seller even delivered it to my door. The irony was he tried to sell it a week earlier for a Buy It Now price we would have gladly paid, but no one bid on it. That ended on a Saturday, and the tree stand broke for the first time on Sunday.

Ahh... this is it!


Then we decided to put the tree with the old cap into the new base. Well, the old cap was slightly bigger than the new base. Now the cap was jammed in the new base. We took the tree out. It was lying on its side on the living room floor. The old cap was still jammed into the new base in a way Don was afraid would crack it.

I think we finally had it upright,secure and decorated by December 20. I was never so happy to take a tree down as I was when we took that one down.

At least this time our troubles started in November. We still have a chance to buy a fake tree.

When someone asks why we don't have a "real" tree, I'll just point them to this article.

Merry Christmas! May your trees all be upright.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Marches through Lawrenceville

Through writing and photographing for the Lawrenceville Patch I have met a lot of new people and have had some different experiences. I've learned to say "YES!" when asked if I could cover a story and worry about the details later. So when my editor was on vacation and his supervisor asked me if I could take a couple of pictures of the Occupy Wall Street movement as they marched through Lawrenceville on their way to Washington, DC I jumped at the opportunity.

Rather than waiting for the group to find me in Lawrenceville, I asked Don to drop me off en route in Princeton. I walked with them for two and a half hours, covering a distance of about 10 miles. For the most part the group moved. I asked them to stop by the Welcome to Lawrenceville sign so I could get a good picture for the Lawrenceville Patch. They welcomed the stop.

It was at this point -- after walking on pitch black semi-highway with a tiny shoulder in Princeton -- that we gained a police escort. It was also at this point that the group decided to walk across the Route 206 to discuss whether or not to continue to Trenton. Someone shouts MIKE CHECK, everyone echoes MIKE CHECK. Then everything the speaker says is echoed. Yes, it is enough to give one a headache. As I see it:

PROS for going to Trenton:
  • Someone from Occupy Trenton moved their bags to Trenton
  • Occupy Trenton has hot food and a place for them to sleep
  • Occupy Trenton is excited about them coming and has set up a media event for them (Revolutionary War re-enactors to march with them for photo ops)
CONS for going to Trenton:
  • They don't have to go just because someone has done all of this for them
  • Their feet hurt and they were tired
Granted, the day's schedule called for a 29 mile march (or was it originally 23 and grew to 30?). Original plans (and those posted on their website) called for walking on Route 1. It was changed because someone told them it was illegal to walk on Route 1, or was it changed because Route 27 to Route 206 passed through Rutgers University, Princeton University and Rider University where they might gain some students to join the march. (Several Rutgers students walked for the day, or until their feet gave out. No one from Princeton joined. They didn't pass Rider until 10 or 10:30.) 

Website describing their plans:

The Google Docs directions calling for them to march down Route 1:

They decide to contiue to Trenton.

This was only day 3 of a 14-day march.

Each time they stop for a MIKE CHECK adds to the time it takes to finish that day's marching.

Along for the march is Liz Flock, a blogger with the Washington Post. I actually joined Twitter (JacPillsbury) so I could follow her journey. The next day she twittered that they group spent an hour discussing which route to take that day. They also debated whether or not the faster walkers could split off from the slower ones. Makes me wonder is their goal just to get to Washington, DC by November 23 (when a vote in Congress is set to take place) or is the goal to show a cohesive front. If they just want to get there -- take a bus or drive. If they want a cohesive group, then stick together.
I left them in Lawrenceville after taking a few more pictures of them on Main Street, just after they started arguing with Lawrenceville Prep students and "Occupied' a restaurant that was kind enough to allow the marchers to use their bathroom. Yes, indoor plumbing would slow me down from doing a 2 week march, as well as lack of other ammeneties. 

There are 21 people committed to marching from NYC to DC. The group changes in size as people join the march for anywhere from a few blocks to a few days. Many of the people marching have jobs -- especially those marching for shorter distances. They are peaceful. I found them very welcoming.

I also found them lacking sanity. One marcher told me "I bet this is the most exciting thing to happen to Lawrenceville." Um, really. 40 people walking through town unannounced, under the cloak of darkness is the most "exciting" thing to happen to my town. I'll admit, I couldn't think of anything more exciting (we live in a town where front page news lately has been whether or not to keep the stripes on Bergen Street), but I doubt this registered on anyone's radar.

I also found them tired. Picture how you feel after going non-stop for a few days -- no access to indoor plumbing, meals, or a comfortable spot to sleep. Of course they were cranky. Unfortunately this was only day 3 of a 14 day self-inflicted march.

I wish after 2 1/2 hours I could say I gained an appreciation, or even an understanding about their cause. They seem to be doing this because they can. No real thought or organization is in place. They do not seem appreciative of people helping them (if they did, why debate about continuing to Trenton where people are waiting for you). No one is in charge. I spoke with two different people about when to expect they would be in my area. Of course, I had two wildly different answers. I felt like asking: do you want press coverage or not? They are practicing "horizontal leadership," which takes a long time even with only 40 people in the group.

One person (according to Jason, they are not protestors) told me Occupy Wall Street sprang up as a result of seeing people in Egypt organize themselves for change, so people in NYC thought they could do the same. The big difference is the Egyptians had a goal (oust the president) and those in NYC want "change."

Yesterday my sister, Rebecca, wrote a blog about Occupy Wall Street: Sounds like they developed a mission statement yesterday. Unfortunately my eyes glazed over reading it.

Yes, change is needed. Yes, this group is making us talk about it. I just don't get it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy Hall-snow-een

2011 has brought New Jersey some very strange weather. In a two week period we had the earthquake in August, followed by Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and a tornado watch. If a band of locusts had been seen in the area we would not have been shocked.

While my West Coast friends were complaining about cold rain, fall brought New Jersey beautiful California-like weather. It was easy to want to spend days outside enjoying the weather. It was also easy to forget that Halloween was sneaking up on us.

About a week before Halloween, it suddenly felt like fall. Then two days before Halloween winter hit.

It rained, snowed and sleeted all day Saturday the 29th. We were very fortunate. In the end, there was about 3 inches of snow on the ground, no lost branches or trees, and only lost power for about 20 minutes. Nearly a week later some friends are still without power.

Fortunately the day before the snow I took Ashley to Little Acres for her annual Halloween picture:

As she did last year, Ashley created her own costume.
This year we did not do a family costume, though we popped into the firehouse and saw the Perry family. Jen made all four costumes from scratch. Amazing!
A week before Halloween, Ashley's school hosted "Trunk or Treat." It was a terrific night! After a few cold days, the weather was perfect for Trunk or Treat. As it should be for a 4th grader, Ashley barely said "bye" to us as she dashed off to hang out with her friends. At least she let me snap this picture.

Onto the main event -- Trick or Treating! We were still in shock that it snowed before Halloween. The snow looked pretty, but it felt more like a scene out of "Nightmare Before Christmas" -- "when two holidays collied!" Fortunately it was a nice night on Halloween.

Before meeting up with Ashley's best friend, Emily, we visited a few neighbors.

Ashley prefers trick or treating with friends. As has been our tradition the past 3 Halloweens, we met up with the Weingartner and Steege families to trick or treat on their side of the neighborhood. As the next day was All Saints Day, a day off in Catholic schools, Ashley, Emily and Kirsten had a chance to hang out for another hour before we headed home.

The piles of candy are overwhelming. Last year's pile lasted Ashley until this Halloween. This year, with Trunk or Treating, we seem to have enough to last us until Halloween 2013.

Happy Halloween! Hope yours was Spooktacular!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Tribute to Pine Valley

As followers of this blog know, "All My Children" recently came to an end. Nearly a month later, six of the cast members are on three-day tour called a "A Tribute to Pine Valley," or as they put it a "A Tribute to Our Fans." "All My Children was on ABC for 41 years. Several in the audience claimed to be fans almost that entire time.

In addition to being a fan of "All My Children," I have been a follower of a blog called "The Pine Valley Bulletin," faithfully written by Kathy Carano, for about 13 years. She is continuing her blog, at least for the time being. It can be found at:

Last fall I was fortunate to be able to meet some of my fellow Pine Valley Bulletin fans, including Kathy. As this event was drawing nearer, I asked if anyone was going to see the show in New Brunswick at the State Theater. Angie Dong (pictured on the left with her co-worker and friend, Joyce) said they were going and would I like to meet them for dinner.

Pine Valley Bulletin. Kathy is the one with purple hair.

After a dinner at Tumulty's on George Street (, we walked the two blocks to the State Theater. As luck would have it, we were in the same row of seats, but on the opposite ends.

My seat was fabulous. It was where the rows start to tilt up, plus there was no one in front of me, so I felt like I had a front row seat. I should have moved to the aisle, though as that is where the men of Pine Valley were making their entrances.

Attending the event were: Walt Wiley (Jack), Vincent Irizarry (David), Jacob Young (JR), Darnell Williams (Jesse), Cameron Mathison (Ryan), and Michael E. Knight (Tad). The men were all charming. They swapped behind-the-scene stories, answered questions, and gave the audience a chance to stump them with trivia questions.

Here is where I let guest blogger, Angie Dong, take over for me:


It was apparent how close they all are. They were familiar and very comfortable with each other. No hesitation in putting a hand on another guy's shoulder or knee to express agreement and support.


MEK (Tad) was asked who his favorite pairing for Tad was with besides Dixie. He responded David. VI (David) said the stunt coordinator thanked him several times for putting his daughter through college and his Jaguar due to all the pay he was collecting for all of David's fights. He said he really enjoyed working with Lindsey (Cara) towards the end until Dixie returned.


Cam related how his eldest - like many kids - asked him "Who's your best friend?" He looked at his wife and then responded "Rebecca Budig" (who played his on and off wife, Greenlee on AMC). His wife nodded that she agreed with his answer.


For the most part, everyone was satisfied with the resolutions of their stories. Someone asked MEK (Tad) how many takes it took to get his monologue in the last episode recorded. He said '2'. During the 1st take, he left out a line that was supposed to be VI's (David) cue to enter the scene. At the end of the toast, VI and other people off scene were standing there and saying 'wait, did I miss the cue?" MEK said he got teary during the 1st take as well - the 1st time he's actually really cried in a scene. Alicia (Kendall) was seriously crying from his monologue. All of them had to struggle to hold back tears.


We learned (or re-learned as it had been reported in the magazines a few days ago) in the final scene of the show, JR was supposed to spray the room with gunfire. When filming, they spent a lot of time filming the smoking gun and getting the scene just right. They were all stunned to just hear one shot ring out when they watched the final episode.


Someone asked how much influence they had in their storylines. They agreed that they didn't have much say at all, but they have leeway in how they deliver their lines - as long as they get the point across. MEK (Tad) started cracking up as he recalled reading a script by a bunch of 40 yr old white people writing for the young black from the 'hood Jesse. DW (Jesse) started cracking up too, as he recalled how they write dialogue for him that included the words "Jive Turkey".... MEK was red in the face from laughing."


With regards to Madden in a Box, MEK (Tad) referred to it as the storyline that no one likes to talk about. He really thought the storyline was out of character, but it was challenging.


On a more positive note, VI (David) said he was proudest of his work during the Baby Leora storyline, but it was totally emotionally draining.

Jacob (JR) loved all the storylines involving Babe, but no one asked him which one, and of course working with David Canary (Adam).

Cam (Ryan) loved the Kendall-Ryan-Greenlee triangle.

MEK's (Tad) favorite scene was when he and John Callahan dressed in drag - everyone agreed that JC (Edmund) was a very ugly female.

DW (Jesse) also said that he was scratching his head over how quickly Jesse switched bye babies. DW's favorite story was Jesse's return from the dead.

Great stories about Ruth Warwick (Pheobe), "Myrtle' and "Langley". Apparently, 'Langley' grew some great pot - he gave one of them (can't remember who) a joint and told him to sit down while smoking it - smoker claimed that he sat on the sofa high all weekend from a couple of puffs.


They were asked how they adjusted to the move out West. VI (David), MEK (Tad) and DW (Jesse) all claim that NY is 'Home'. VI said that, as an actor, he's bi-coastal. For years he worked on Y&R on the West Coast while his family stayed out East. When he got the chance to work with AMC, he loved the opportunity to be with his family. When he rejoined AMC this last time, he was stunned that the show was moved out West after 39+ years and kinda annoyed that he had to do the bi-coastal thing again.

DW (Jesse) said that his career has always been bi-coastal.

JY (JR) was originally from out west, but really loves NY and met his wife here - so, it is home, too.

Walt's (Jack) family live in a small town outside of Santa Fe. So, the move out West worked well for him since he was a 2 hr direct flight home, instead of a 7 hr flight with a transfer.

CM (Ryan) tried to say he was an East Coaster, too, but his co-workers teased him mercilessly for trying to pull one over on us. CM is from Canada. Perhaps, the east coast of Canada, but not a New Yorker, eh.

MEK (Tad) mentioned that his insurance adjuster is on his speed dial. As a New Yorker, his biggest adjustment to moving to LA was needing to drive... the SUV he drives exhibits his driving skills.


First part of the evening was Q&A. Walt mentioned that the NJ crowd had it together - most people said 'this question is for all of you', whereas the NYC crowd directed their questions to just 1 of the 6. During the first part of the program, Cam (Ryan) went up to the balcony area to get questions (which is why I (Jacquie) did not end up with any good pictures of him alone), while first Walt (Jack) and then Darnell (Jesse) walked through the audience in the Orchestra section. LOL - Walt (Jack) stumbled a little bit on my (Angie's) foot.


One segment of the show had the audience asking one of the 6 a trivia question about one of their storylines. If the actor couldn't remember, the audience member got a prize.

Results were varied, especially since some of the audience members didn't know the answer to their own questions. Samples:
Jacob (JR) - How many siblings (half and whole) does JR have?
Darnell (Jesse) - What was his mother-in-law's name?
Walt (Jack) - who was initiated the hate crime against Stuart's wife Cindy? (that was the intended question - the audience member mangled it.)
MEK (Tad) - who paid Tad to date Dottie?

Walt (Jack) - how many husbands does Erica have, and can you name them all?


During the last segment they answered some questions they had prepared in advance.

One was about the fickleness of Fame.... MEK (Tad) remembered going to Disneyland with Maurice Bernard (Nico at the time) while out West for a fan event. He was speaking with MB and noticed a couple approaching them. When the guy extended his camera, MEK responded with 'sure'... continued to speak with MB while putting his arm around the woman and giving her a peck on the cheek. Then, he realized that the man was from Germany was asking him to take a picture of himself and his wife - he did not want a picture with MEK at all!

VI (David) recalls a time 14 years before starting with All My Children when he was supposed to do a fan event. The night before he got very drunk and missed his wake up call. The limo driver knocked on his door and reminded him it was beyond time to go. He took a quick shower and went downstairs only to find the very famous James Mitchell (Palmer on AMC) waiting in the cab. I cannot do justice to the story, but suffice it to same JM made a snide comment about it being no trouble waiting for him (the young upstart). 14 years later they were both on AMC. VI went to introduce himself to JM (really hoping he had forgotten the situation). It was clear JM had not forgotten, even though it had been 14 years earlier. The two ended up becoming close.

WW (Jack) recalled being on the show as an extra about 40-50 times before being cast as Jack. He said they felt sorry for him and finally created the role of Jack so he could stick around a while. He remembers auditioning for other roles, but not that one.

CM (Ryan) related how he was with AMC for a short time and was in a dept store with his then-girlfriend. It was just after the episodes aired where Ryan was cleared of raping Jack's sister Kit. A woman was riding the escalator and saw him and screamed "RYAN!!" He looked up and waved like celebrity. Then, the woman proceeded to yell out "I'm so glad they let you out of prison!!!"

DW said he was with Debbie Morgan (Angie) once in the movies when they were on AMC the first time (in the early 1980s). He could hear murmurings throughout the theater ("is that them?" "is that Jesse and Angie?"). He took DM by the hand and said "RUN!!!" The two of them were surprised to see fans chasing them down the streets of NYC.


A few more thoughts from Angie (I don't want to lose any thoughts from that night as it was just amazing):

The guys had a great respect and admiration for the 'old timers Ruth Warrick (Phoebe), James Mitchell (Palmer), Eileen Hierle (Myrtle) and David Canary (Adam).

Walt (Jack) said that Ruth (Phoebe) often asked him to escort her to events. When a camera was not in sight, she seemed frail and elderly. However, as soon as lights and a red carpet were involved, she pulled herself upright and was the grand dame of the theater a la Mrs. Citizen Kane.

Walt (Jack) also told his story about his first up close encounter with Ruth (Phoebe). They were filming Nina and Cliff's wedding. Walt was an extra - waiter, I believe. He was trying to get up close to her so he could express his respect. He ended up behind her as they neared the doors to the manor. Ruth was smoking. When she approached the door, the person at the door told her that smoking was not allowed on premises. She promptly told him what he could do using very unladylike language.

MEK (Tad) informed us all that Ruth (Phoebe) was a gasser. No one ever talked about it and it just became a normal part of the job. One day Ian Buchanon (Duke Lavery of GH) and Finola Hughes (Anna Devane of GH) were visiting the set. Everyone was coming out of their dressing rooms to meet him. Then Ruth came 'swanning' down the hallway and Ian was shaking her hand as she farted loudly. Ian wasn't sure how to react, but the rest of the cast and crew went on as though nothing had happened.

MEK (Tad) also mentioned how long and boring filming major events could be for all of them. At one Crystal Ball he was about to go through his dialogue when Eileen (Myrtle) started licking her teeth and making pointed looks at him. As a result, he kept on trying to check his teeth and couldn't feel anything. At the end of the scene, he asked her what was wrong and she responded 'I was just trying to f**K with you, darling.'


Of course there was also talk about AMC moving to the internet through Prospect Park in January. ( As a group they were fairly mum, though excited about the project. JY (JR) let it slip that his role on "The Young and the Restless" is a short-term contract. Thus implying he could be on AMC in January when it starts airing again.


Each told us what is happening in their lives:

Walt (Jack) has a traveling comedy show called Wiled and Willey (

Cam (Ryan) recently shot a movie in Canada and sometimes hosts on Good Morning America. He has signed up with Prospect Park.

Darnell (Jesse) is auditioning.

Jacob (JR) is on "Young and the Restless" with a short-term contract.

Vincent (David) is auditioning.

Michael (Tad) is scared because he doesn't know what the future holds.


They are all excellent story tellers, even without scripts in front of them. The two hours flew by. I half-wished I had upgrade (another $150 dollars) to stay a couple of more hours in a more intimate setting, but was also glad to go home.

A few more pictures:

Michael E. Knight (Tad)

Jacob Young (JR)
 Vincent Irizzary (David)
Cameron Mathison (Ryan)
Darnell Williams (Jesse)
Walt Willey (Jack)